Rough & Ready Lumber closes doors – 82 jobs lost

healthy-forests-healthy-communitiesRough & Ready Mill Closure Highlights Need for New Direction on Federal Forest Policy
By Health Forests, Healthy Communities

Rough & Ready Lumber yesterday announced the closure of its Cave Junction lumber mill after 90 years in business. The closure eliminates 85 family-wage jobs at the last sawmill in rural Josephine County.

The closure is the latest blow to an economically-devastated community. Based on similar multipliers looking at job losses in rural Oregon, the loss of 85 jobs in Josephine County is comparable to the loss of over 10,000 jobs in the Portland metro area. The county already has an 11.6 percent unemployment rate, and over the past five years the county has suffered an average poverty level of 18.8 percent or higher. At Cave Junction’s Evergreen Elementary School, 83 percent of children qualify for free and reduced lunch.

In the following press release, CEO and Co-Owner Jennifer Krauss Phillippi cited the inadequate and unpredictable supply of timber from nearby federal forests. Josephine County Commissioner Simon Hare says the mill’s closure should serve as a “wake-up call” to federal policy-makers who are in a position to change forest policy and save jobs and other businesses in rural communities. This press release is being re-distributed with the company’s permission.


Rough & Ready Lumber LLC

P.O. Box 519
30365 Redwood Highway
Cave Junction, OR 97523

April 17, 2013


Cave Junction, Oregon – Rough & Ready (R & R) Lumber announced today the closure of its Cave Junction lumber mill, a major local employer that recently celebrated its 90th year in business in Oregon’s timber-dependent Illinois Valley. The mill, providing 85 family-wage jobs, has been unable to secure a sufficient supply of logs from the surrounding federal forests to remain competitive. “We deeply regret having to close the family lumber business that my grandparents founded in 1922,” said Jennifer Phillippi, CEO and co-owner of Rough & Ready.

Link and Jennifer Phillippi and Joe Krauss are the third-generation family members operating the mill. Many R & R employees are third-generation, too.

Rough & Ready is known for producing high-quality wood products that are used in doors, windows and exposed beams, sought after by customers around the world. Over the years the family continued Rough & Ready’s tradition of reinvesting in the community, including a $6 million biomass cogeneration facility in 2007, Forest Stewardship Council green certification for sustainably produced wood products, and an investment in the region’s first small log mill. The company was poised to begin a new $2 million sawmill project in 2014.

“But, we can’t justify the cost with an inadequate, unpredictable log supply supporting only one shift,” Phillippi said. “It’s like sitting in a grocery store not being able to eat while the produce rots around you.”

Once a thriving wood products region, Josephine and Jackson Counties In 1975 were home to 22 sawmills. By 2003 six remained, and for the last several years R & R has been the lone sawmill operating in the region.

R & R Lumber sits amid forestland owned 80 percent by the federal government—over 2.7 million acres—but for over 20 years, the mill has had virtually no access to federal timber. These forests grow around one billion board feet of wood per year. While half of that growth was harvested historically, now only seven percent of annual forest growth is available for harvest. R & R annually consumes 25 million board feet (without relying on old growth), while the surrounding unmanaged forest becomes increasingly fire prone and diseased—despite plan after plan to address the ecological and economic problems this creates.

The company has worked closely with federal and state policy makers since the early 1990s on solutions to the stalemate over federal timber harvest, and the creative ideas and leadership coming from Governor Kitzhaber and Oregon Congressional Representatives Peter DeFazio, Greg Walden and Kurt Schrader have been encouraging. “The outlook seemed especially hopeful,” said Phillippi, “when Senator Wyden was appointed Chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, but we are disappointed that little has changed. The status quo just isn’t enough to sustain us, even with an improving economy and our customers begging for more of what our employees are so good at making.”

Rough & Ready announced that it would provide mill employees with severance pay based on years of service and assistance in finding new jobs. According to long-term R & R employee Ed Cunningham, “We are grateful the company kept the doors open during the recession, knowing how difficult it would be for employees to find work.”

Looking ahead, the Phillippi and Krauss families will continue to manage Perpetua Forests Company, which owns private forestland, and will sell timber from those responsibly managed lands to other mills. Jennifer Phillippi indicated the family would be relieved if another owner with access to timber supply were able to buy the R & R mill and keep it running, “because those jobs are so critical to the economy of Cave Junction and the region.”

Josephine County Commissioner Simon Hare praised R & R’s long tradition of investing in the local community, and voiced frustration that failure to find solutions to federal forest policy has forced the 90-year-old company to shut down: “This may serve as a final wake-up call, because other local wood products manufacturers in Oregon’s timber-dependent rural economies are just as fragile,” Hare said.



Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities is a non-profit organization supporting Congressional action on a comprehensive and permanent solution to restore the health of our rural counties and federal forest lands.

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